The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Special Reports

July 21, 2010

Teens beef up the fair

ANDERSON, Ind. — Six in the morning? They’re feeding the cows. After school? They’re brushing the cows. Long day at practice? Doesn’t matter, they’re taking care of the cows.

The 4-H youth aren’t beefing around, and they’ve got several hundred pounds of bovine to prove it.

“It can be pretty stressful sometimes but it’s worth it,” said Mitchell Smith, the 15-year-old who had the grand champion heifer at the Madison County 4-H Fair. “I spent 10 hours in the barn every day with her.”

Smith and about 40 other teenagers with Madison County’s 4-H clubs showed off their heifers, steers and calves Tuesday.

Garrett Lowes had the reserve grand champion heifer, a 18-month-old red Angus. Mackenzie McCarty had the grand champion steer, and Lauren Miller had the reserve grand champion steer. The steers will be auctioned off.

Judge Barry Wesner, who has raised livestock his entire life, said he was looking for overall quality in the animals. For the heifers, he wanted to see femininity and “structural soundness,” he said. For the steers, he said he was looking at quality and the amount of muscle “because they’re meat animals.”

Wesner, whose two daughters also show cattle, said the children have to be dedicated to their animals. His college-aged daughter plays basketball and still has to come after practice to tend to her cattle.

“They learn, first, how to compete gracefully,” he said. “And, a lot of hard work and responsibility. These animals take a lot of time.”

Even at the show, the teenagers could be seen in the barn diligently preparing their animals for the show. They brushed the coats, vacuumed away stray hairs and combed adhesive into the leg hairs.

Wesner said gluing the leg hair is an attempt to hid any structural flaws from him, the judge. It’s a common practice that has recently been debated, he said.

“I tell them we’re willing to do that when the queen contest goes all natural,” Wesner said, comparing the interesting glue technique to makeup worn by pageant contestants.

Smith, having won reserve champion a few times before and grand champion this year, said raising cattle with 4-H has given him a chance to meet friends, have fun and prepare for his future.

“When I grow up, that’s what I want to do, raise cattle,” he said.

Contact Christina M. Wright, 640-4883, christina.wright@heraldbulletin.com.

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